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Addressing Employment Gaps During a Job Search

Decide where to disclose

❶Here are a couple of examples:

Disability Support Worker

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Statistically, roughly one in six Americans has a disability of some sort. And unfortunately, many of those Americans struggle to locate gainful employment. If you want to mention disability in your resume, read this first!

Most experts suggest that the answer is almost always a resounding no. In short, there are few reasons why the inclusion of this information could ever be necessary. Of course, if you are unqualified due to your disability, then you would be lying if you ignored your impairment. And while some minor disabilities like mild hearing or vision problems might seem worth mentioning, your best bet is to bring them up at an interview.

Yes, it is sad to think that discrimination still exists at this point in history — but it does. Many will see it as a potential source for problems. Some will wonder whether you need special accommodations. Others will wonder whether you are as qualified as you say you are. Keep in mind that not all gaps need to be mentioned. These include gaps that lasted for a few months or occurred a long time ago. If the gap in employment was used constructively, the job seeker may consider including it in his or her resume.

Often, time taken out to travel, study or pursue a dream could be used to a job seekers advantage. Many people have gaps in their employment due to maternity or paternity leave. These details can also be mentioned and it may be helpful to reassure employers that childcare arrangements have been made in preparation for the return to work. Some gaps are trickier to explain.

These include periods of unemployment, which may or may not be related to disability or illness. Even if time away from work was related to an unexpected and negative event, a job seeker may still be able to turn this into a positive by reflecting on lessons learned and how these could be helpful in the workplace. If a cover letter is used, a job seeker should be sure to keep it positive and to maintain a positive attitude.

There is no "one size fits all" answer on how a particular absence should be explained. If you have an otherwise strong history of employment that is marred by one noticeable gap, you can often use the chronological resume format.

You should still be honest when listing your work experience, and will need to explain that major gap so that the employer understands why you were unemployed. Many experts recommend that you commit to using part of your cover letter to deal with gaps. Your cover letter is your introduction to the prospective employer, and your first opportunity to make a positive impression — but that also means that it can be an ideal place to dispense with potential distractions so that the hiring manager can spend his time focusing on the value you offer.

You can see our post here on writing an awesome cover letter for more information. Did a personal tragedy disrupt your life and send you off in search of new meaning for your life? Skip the tragedy and focus on what you learned from that sabbatical. Did your company shelter its doors, resulting in a lengthy period of unemployment? Give less emphasis to the closing and more to how you used your time on the unemployment line to make yourself an even more valuable hire.

Remember, you want to be positive. Your cover letter should serve as a primer for your functional resume. It should emphasize your strengths. The fact is that hiring managers really only care about how your abilities and character can benefit their companies. Before even attempting to use your cover letter to explain work gaps, be sure that you understand what your cover letter is designed to accomplish.

With that in mind, try to de-emphasize small gaps, and quickly explain larger periods away from the workplace. How you do that will likely depend upon the reason for the gap, and what you accomplished in your time off. Here are two examples of the types of explanations that might be useful for your unique situation.

In this situation you should mention the that you took time off to care for a child but also mention something productive you did that would help your career. This could be taking additional courses or studying a relevant subject.

You can even add relevant interests and activities from your time off. Here are some more useful cover letter tips for maternity leave.

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Disability-related employment gaps. How should you handle employment gaps caused by medical-related absences? "If there's a big gap (two or more years), it helps to have a filler," suggests Klare. But Klare advises against disclosing your disability on the resume or cover letter as the reason for the gap. "There are many ways to fill gaps," he says.

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The Best Resume Format For Employment Gaps One of the best ways to deal with employment gaps is to make sure that you use the right resume format. In instances where you have a number of gaps, the functional resume is ideal. If you explain these gaps up front, an employer may be less likely to dismiss your resume. Disability- or health-related gaps, are best explained during an interview to reduce the possibility of discrimination or needless concern by an employer about your ability to return to work.

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Candidates' resumes should reflect coursework in areas like rehabilitation therapy, occupational therapy, or special education. For more information on what it takes to be a Disability Support Worker, check out our complete Disability Support Worker Job Description. The sample resume shown below is a targeted resume for an experienced professional with a five-year unemployment gap who is seeking a project manager position. By carefully targeting resumes for specific jobs and situations, you can greatly improve your chances of getting noticed in the job market.